Three local attorneys are vying for the seat of a judge who is retiring after four decades on the bench.
Brian Alsip, Michael Auger and Kim Van Valer all are Republican candidates in the race for Franklin City Court judge.
The winner of the general election in November will replace Judge Robert Schafstall, who does not plan to pursue an 11th term in office. Schafstall is the longest-serving elected official in Johnson County.
The three candidates seeking to replace him all have worked as attorneys in local courts.
Two candidates touted their experience as judges for why they should be elected.
ABOUT THE JOB
Franklin city judge
Term: Four years
Duties: Hear infractions, misdemeanors and preliminary felonies, issue search warrants and arrest warrants
Requirements: Must be an attorney who lives in Franklin, can’t practice criminal law in an area that would come under the Franklin court’s jurisdiction
ABOUT THE CANDIDATES
Occupation: Corporate attorney
Political experience: None
Family: Wife, Erica; son, Conner
Education: Bachelor of Arts in political science, history and sociology from Franklin College, law degree from University of Dayton Law School
Political experience: None
Family: Four children, Isabel, Maggie, Sam and Annie
Education: Bachelor of Arts in history from Mary Washington College, law degree from Indiana University School of Law Indianapolis
Kim Van Valer
Occupation: Mediator and works as judge for state part-time
Political experience: Appointed in 1994 as Johnson County magistrate judge, served two terms as judge in Johnson Superior Court No. 3
Family: Two children, Ross and Leah
Education: Bachelor of Arts in art history from Indiana University, master’s degree in art history from University of Minnesota, law degree from Indiana University
Auger has served as temporary judge in Johnson Circuit, Superior No. 2 and 3 and juvenile courts.
Van Valer served as magistrate judge for two years and as Superior No. 3 judge for two terms and also works part time as a substitute judge for courts across the state.
They all also said their legal experience would make them the best candidates.
Alsip said his experience, along with his passion for the law, would make him a good candidate for the job.
“I want to take my background and put it on the bench and work hard every day to make Franklin a safe place,” Alsip said.
Auger has represented clients in city court before, has years of experience in criminal law and knowledge of minor misdemeanor cases and traffic law cases that often are handled in city court, he said.
And, in her years as judge, Van Valer has had experience with a large number of misdemeanor cases, which are a big part of the city court’s caseload, she said.
All three candidates said they don’t see a need to make major changes to the court, which they believe already runs effectively and efficiently.
But they also said the court, which handles traffic offenses and misdemeanor cases, faces challenges from a high caseload.
Last year, more than 13,000 cases were handled by the court, which has a part-time judge.
Alsip said if elected, he would not want to make any sweeping changes or any changes to staffing, since the current employees are dedicated and work hard to keep the court running efficiently.
But he said he would need to take a look at the court once he was in office to decide for sure if anything should be changed.
Auger would like to look into having the court take payments, such as for traffic tickets, by credit card and online, instead of the current cash-only policy.
“It might be more efficient if people could pay that way,” Auger said.
He also wants to look for other ways of making the court more convenient and efficient for attorneys and residents, he said.
Another issue that will take up the next judge’s time is finding a home for the court in the next two years, which was part of the city’s land-swap deal with the county, he said.
Van Valer said she doesn’t see any major changes that need to be made in the court, but she still plans to evaluate operations and procedures if elected.
And she will consider any ways those procedures should be adjusted as she learns them, she said.
“With a new judge, this will be a huge change for everyone, no matter who is there,” she said.
As judge, she would want to make sure the city court has a good relationship with county judges, since they share the same resources — mainly the jail and community corrections program, which both are facing problems with overcrowding.
Van Valer believes she is ready to do that since she previously served on the county’s jail management committee and community corrections advisory board, she said.
All three candidates said they would continue their work as attorneys, and for Van Valer as mediator, since the position is part time.
But they would make sure to avoid any conflicts.
Auger said he would continue practicing family law and would not take on any criminal cases, since those are most likely to present conflicts.
Alsip said he doesn’t handle criminal cases currently and wouldn’t, to avoid any conflicts.
Van Valer would continue her work as a mediator, because she is a neutral party, which likely would cause little to no conflicts. But she also would not take on any criminal cases, she said.
She also has a computer and indexing system that would search for any potential conflicts, which she does now when she serves as a part-time, substitute judge for courts across the state, she said.